Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

(1) MAN INTO SPACE. Wake up The Traveler – the thing sf fans have dreamed about just happened! “[April 12, 1961] Stargrazing (The Flight of Vostok)” at Galactic Journey.

The jangling of the telephone broke my slumber far too early.  Groggily, I paced to the handset, half concerned, half furious.  I picked it up, but before I could say a word, I heard a frantic voice.

“Turn on your radio right now!”

I blinked.  “Wha..” I managed.

“Really!” the voice urged.  I still didn’t even know who was calling.

Nevertheless, I went to the little maroon Zenith on my dresser and turned the knob.  The ‘phone was forgotten in my grip as I waited for the tubes to warm up.  10 seconds later, I heard the news.

It happened.  A man had been shot into orbit.  And it wasn’t one of ours.

(2) MAKING IT BETA. R. S. Belcher thanks “The League of Extraordinary Beta Readers” at Magical Words.

Stephen King says in On Writing, to write with the door closed and edit with the door open. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. Your beta readers get first dibs when you open that door, they are your test audience. I have worked with different beta readers on different projects and over time, you find the folks that are going to help you the most with getting the very best out of your writing. A few tips I’d offer that have worked for me.

1) Punctuality: If it takes your beta reader as long to read and get your MS back to you as it took you to write it, they may not be the person you need. By the same token, if you get it back the same day you sent it off to them to read, chances are they skimmed it, so take their advice with a grain of salt.

2) Consistency: If three of your beta-readers all pick up on the same thing, LOOK AT IT and consider their advice. I’ve found that that trait is a flag for readers who I can count on to be giving me good, consistent feedback on trouble spots in the book.

3) Objectivity: If all a friend, family member, or loved one can give you as feedback is how awesome every word is, that is great for the poor writer’s ego but not much help to the professional writer. By the same token, if all you get is negative feedback, you may need to take that advice with a grain of salt too.  Some beta readers are glass-half-full people and others are more glass-half-empty.

(3) STARTING LINES. Rachel Swirsky studies the first lines of her own stories, then others’.

“First lines Part I: Half a Dozen of My Recent Stories”.

I decided it might be interesting to look at some of the first lines of my stories. I’m grabbing a half-dozen first lines from some of my recent publications. I’m only looking at stories that are online, so if people want to see how the first line relates to the rest of the story, they can.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at a half-dozen from some of my favorite stories.If this proves interesting (to me or readers), I may do more another time.

Love Is Never Still” in Uncanny Magazine

“Through every moment of carving, I want her as one wants a woman.”

I’m happy with this–which is useful because I essentially just finished it (six months ago). The story begins as a retelling of the myth of Galatea, a statue who is wished to life when her sculptor falls in love. For people who are versed in Greek mythology, this should evoke Galatea as a possibility — carving, want, woman.

“First Lines Part II: from Some of My Favorite Stories”

The Evolution of Trickster Stories among the Dogs of North Park after the Change” by Kij Johson

“North Park is a backwater tucked into a loop of the Kaw River: pale dirt and baked grass, aging playground equipment, silver-leafed cottonwoods, underbrush, mosquitoes and gnats blackening the air at dusk.”

Obviously, this sentence is scene setting. Kij makes it beautiful with her specific details: “pale dirt,” “baked grass,” “aging playground equipment,” “silver-leafed cotton-woods,” “mosquitoes,” “gnats.” Almost all of the details evoke slow decay–“backwater,” “baked grass,” “aging.” Insects don’t gather in the air so much as dirty it–“blackening” the dusk. The evoked colors are washed out–pale, baked, silver–we can possibly also include the old metal and rust of the playground equipment. The silver-leafed cottonwoods are the exception here–the color is on the grey/black spectrum, yes, but the tree still sounds beautiful. This is decay, but not hopeless decay.

The sentence also establishes the academic tone. This is the kind of sentence assembled by someone speaking authoritatively about a subject, not describing their sensory impressions of the world. The phrasing is formal and complex, and the use of the colon an even more significant marker.

(4) BEYOND LIMITS. John Carlton’s “Generation Ships”, an interesting critique of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, focuses on the requirements for such a space mission. How many other stimulating observations might Carlton have made if he had read the book?

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote a book recently apparently to show that interstellar travel is impossible….

It’s not possible to travel between the stars and even if we could, the missions would all fail.  Of course he also believes that utopia is possible as some sort of Socialist paradise.  Now that’s a fantasy….

As an engineer, I think that Mr. Robinson is clearly wrong. Or at least, he doesn’t understand the basic rules for setting mission parameters and designing to meet those parameters. Mr. Robison’s vessel failed because he wanted it to fail. But to extend that to saying that ALL such proposals would fail is more than a little egotistical. And wrong, really wrong.

Now I haven’t as yet read the book. Reading Greg Benford’s review left me going WTF, WTF, WTF, are you kidding? If you are going to write a book on pioneering could you at least set it up so that the pioneers are at least a little realistic. A ship without a captain or seemingly a crew? No community structure? What was it, a commune in space? Of course something like that is going to fail. That’s what happens to fragile structure and the commune is the most fragile of all. Just look at all the failed examples in the 19th Century. So that’s fail #1….

(5) GALAKTIKA MAGAZINE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has been following A.G. Carpenter’s reports about the Hungarian magazine that published numerous stories in translation without paying the original authors. Rambo wrote a post at her blog about receiving “Answers to Some Galaktika Magazine Questions”.

In the process of talking to people, I dropped Istvan Burger [editor in chief of Galaktika] a mail because I had these questions:

  1. Would all writers be paid, preferably without their having to contact Galaktika?
  2. Would all translators be paid? (my understanding was that the same lack of payment has happened with them.)
  3. For any online stories, would authors be able to request that the story be taken down?
  4. Would a process be put in place to ensure this never happens again?

Here’s the reply:

Dear Cat, I’m writing on behalf of Istvan Burger, editor in chief of Galaktika.

We’d like to ask authors to contact us directly to agree on compensation methods. You can give my email address to the members. [email protected]

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works. As we wrote in our statement, there is no problem with novels, as all the rights of novels were paid by us in time.

Also let me emphasise again that all the translators were paid all the time!

You can quote my reply. Thank you for your help!

Best regards, Katalin Mund, Manager of Galaktika Magazine

(6) CARPENTER OPINES ON LATEST GALAKTIKA RESPONSE. Anna Grace Carpenter, who has been developing this story, commented on Burger’s answers to Rambo in “Galaktika Magazine: Legacy”.

Mr. Burger and Mr. Nemeth have offered vague explanations that are, quite frankly, not satisfactory given the number of years this theft has occurred. But whether it was ignorance or laziness or just the inclination that if they could get away with it, they would, something has to change drastically going forward.

I would really like to think that the offer to provide compensation for the authors whose work has been stolen indicates the problem has been resolved. Although requiring the individual authors be aware they’ve been stolen from and making them responsible for seeking payment does not seem a good faith step.

And there is the question that Cat Rambo raised regarding whether authors could or would be able to request their work withdrawn from Galaktika. She referenced a potential online edition (which is seems there is not one), but the response from Katalin Mund was as follows.

The short stories were published in a monthly magazine, which was sold for two months, so these prints are not available any more. So Authors don’t need to withdraw their works.

As I mentioned earlier, a comment from a Hungarian reader promptly revealed the misrepresentation of that statement.

They state it, but this is a flat-out lie. Nearly ALL back issues are available for ordering on the publisher’s webshop, http://galaktikabolt.hu/. I checked, and every issue from the year 2015 is available now. (The original article on mandiner.hu was about the magazine’s 2015 issues.) They’re not digital copies, the physical, paper-based issues are still sold.

At the very best, Mund and Galaktika are misrepresenting the situation regarding further sales of the pirated work. And this is key – they are selling that work.

(7) HEINLEIN SOCIETY SCHOLARSHIPS. The Heinlein Society is taking applications for three $1,000 scholarships for undergraduate students at accredited 4-year colleges and universities.

The “Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship” is dedicated to a female candidate majoring in engineering, math, or physical sciences (e.g. physics, chemistry). The other two scholarships may be awarded to either a male or female, and add “Science Fiction as literature” as an eligible field of study.

Applicants will need to submit a 500-1,000 word essay on one of several available topics.

Those interested should fill out the Scholarship Application 2016 [PDF file] and print or email. The deadline to apply is May 15. Winners will be announced on July 7.

(8) KEN LIU. At B&N Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog, Ken Liu describes “5 Chinese Mythological Creatures That Need to Appear in More SF/F”. You know it’s a winner, because five!


Usually depicted as a sort of winged lion—but with the wings folded to the sides of the body—the pixiu is said to be one of the nine children of the loong. Like the loong, it has antlers on its head (the male pixiu has two antlers and the female just one).

As one of the most auspicious Chinese mythological creatures, statues of the pixiu once stood at ancient city and palace gates as guardians. These days, the pixiu is more often seen in the form of small jade pendants dangling from rear-view mirrors or worn as jewelry for good luck. In this evolution lies a rather interesting tale.

In the oldest Chinese sources, the pixiu is depicted as a ferocious beast. The legendary Yellow Emperor recruited the fiercest animals into a special unit of his army in the war against the Yan Emperor, and the pixiu made the cut along with bears and tigers and similar apex predators (another interpretation of this passage is that the beasts were the totems of the tribes who followed the Yellow Emperor). In classical texts, the pixiu is thus often used as a metaphor for a powerful army.

But folklore also speaks of the pixiu violating the decorum of the heavenly court by pooping on the floor. To punish the creature, the Jade Emperor sealed the pixiu’s anus so that it could only eat but never defecate. The pixiu is supposed to go around devouring evil spirits and demons and convert their essence into gold and treasure, which it must hold in its belly forever. This explains the pixiu’s reputation as a bringer of wealth.

I like to think of the pixiu as a precursor for the modern military-industrial complex.

(9) MAGAZINE TO SUSPEND PUBLISHING. Interfictions Online is going on hiatus after the November 2016 issue. The editors have posted this letter:

Dear Friends of Interfictions,

With your support, we have run a marvelous magazine for three years.

At this point, Interfictions needs to take a break to allow the Interstitial Arts Foundation to figure out how to best support us. Our archives will remain available and free, but as of December 2016, the magazine will be on indefinite hiatus.

We will be ending this round of the magazine with a fantastic fall issue in November 2016. We’re going to solicit material for it, so there won’t be an open submissions period. We promise it will thrill and inspire you!

Thank you for participating in this project as artists, writers, readers, and listeners.

Sincerely, The Editors

(10) AFTER YOU SELL THE SERIES. Women in Animation’s Professional Development program will present a panel on Tuesday, April 26 – “They Said Yes! Now What?”

A follow-up to last year’s highly successful panel, “Who Says Yes? And Why?”. This panel will cover what someone who has created or developed an animated series does once they get a positive response, the legal and business issues of the actual deal, and what you can expect after the studio or network says yes, including the development process from this point forward (What? You thought you were done developing it  when you sold it?) and just how much you can expect to be involved with or in charge of the series.

Free for WiA members. $15 for non-members. Panelists include Jennifer Dodge (SVP, Development, Nickelodeon Preschool), Cort Lane (SVP, Animation & Family Entertainment, Marvel Televsion), Annette van Duren (agent), Donna Ebbs (producer, former exec at The Hub and Disney), and Craig Miller (writer-producer)

(11) STORY OF YOUR LIFE. A Paramount movie based on Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life” is expected to open in the fall of 2016. Amy Adams will play the linguist Dr. Louise Banks, Jeremy Renner will play the theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, and Forest Whitaker plays a military figure (Colonel Weber). An extended segment of the film was screened at CinemaCon, a trade show for theater owners.

io9 has the news:

A linguist and a theoretical physicist are the stars of the latest movie from the director of Sicario and the upcoming Blade Runner 2. The movie is Story Of Your Life, based on the short story by Ted Chiang, and this Amy Adams/Jeremy Renner movie looks awesome.

Paramount Pictures screened an extended look at the film as part of CinemaCon, a trade show in which movie studios show their upcoming films to theater owners. Paramount showcased Ninja Turtles 2, Ben Hur, Jack Reacher 2 and plenty of other upcoming releases (not including Star Trek Beyond, for some reason.) But the highlight was Story Of Your Life, which has no release date yet but is expected to open this fall.

(12) VOLCANIC ENDINGS. Leah Schnelbach, writing at length about “Preparing Myself for Death with Joe Versus the Volcano” at Tor.com, implicitly argues that this Tom Hanks movie is worth the fine-toothed-comb study she gives it.

At the dawn of the ’90s, a film was released that was so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed. That film was Joe Versus the Volcano, and it is a near-masterpiece of cinema.

There are a number of ways one could approach Joe Versus the Volcano. You could look at it in terms of writer and director John Patrick Shanley’s career, or Tom Hanks’. You could analyze the film’s recurring duck and lightning imagery. You could look at it as a self-help text, or apply Campbell’s Hero Arc to it. I’m going to try to look at it a little differently. JVtV is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

The plot of JVtV is simple: sad sack learns he has a terminal illness. Sad sack is wasting away, broke and depressed on Staten Island, when an eccentric billionaire offers him a chance to jump into a volcano. Caught between a lonely demise in an Outer Borough and a noble (if lava-y) death, sad sack chooses the volcano. (Wouldn’t you?) Along the way he encounters three women: his coworker DeDe, and the billionaire’s two daughters, Angelica and Patricia. All three are played by Meg Ryan. The closer he gets to the volcano the more wackiness ensues, and the film culminates on the island of Waponi-Wu, where the Big Wu bubbles with lava and destiny. Will he jump? Will he chicken out? Will love conquer all? The trailer outlines the entire plot of the film, so that the only surprise awaiting theatergoers was…well, the film’s soul, which is nowhere to be seen here…

(13) HOW MANY STICKY QUARTERS IS THAT? A Frank R. Paul cover from the collection of Dr. Stuart David Schiff is currently up for auction. The owner of “Where Eternity Ends”, a pulp magazine cover from the June 1939 issue of Science Fiction, is looking for an opening bid of $6,000.

Here’s how the piece looked when published. The original art can be seen at the auction link.

(14) YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST. The Hugo results are in!

(15) VIRGIN AMERICA HUMOR. Jeb Kinnison writes, “Friend Steve Freitag works as a gate agent at Virgin and often comes up with fun comments on the status sign. Since they’re being bought by Alaska and probably won’t be free to have such fun soon, he put up a selection of the best…”

Here’s a sample – click to see the full gallery.

View post on imgur.com

(16) THE ART OF THE DICE. David Malki (Wondermark) posted a new batch of Roll-a-Sketch artwork.

I just got back from the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, and here are a few favorites of the many Roll-a-Sketch drawings I made for folks there!

Roll-a-Sketch, as longtime readers know, is something I do at conventions and other appearances: folks can roll some dice to select random words from a list, and then I have the task of combining those words into a creature! …


 [Thanks to Jeb Kinnison, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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196 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/12/16 My Pixels Were Fair And Had Scrolls In Their Hair

  1. @Francesca
    I know she’s been writing the Court series more at the moment (just finished, just about, a draft of book 3) so I suspect, sadly, its going to be a while.

  2. k_choll: These Delany comments prompt me to recommend Richard Wadholm’s short story “Green Tea”. There’s a strong character focus and arresting poetic imagery. Dozois included it in one of his Year’s Best collections.

  3. I finished The Library at Mount Char last night. It was a fast, enjoyable read. The situation and set up were interesting, but I’ll admit the characters were fairly flat until the last 20% of the book. I do wish we’d gotten a look at Father’s opposition. BTW, I recognized lot’s of call outs – Monstruwaccan, Adam Black (reverse those) and more that I don’t recall.

    Back to The Broken Kingdoms (interesting and nice though the cult is making me uncomfortable), Borderline (haven’t started yet), Driven to Distraction at Work (interesting, thoughtful and potentially useful), Hot Earth Dreams (could be better, but I’m reserving judgement until I get past the pontificating), Playing Poker At Work, Lovecraft Country (surprise find at the library) and Feersum Endjinn (a reread, hopefully as fun as I remember).

    PS: I love my local library. Hugely useful for saving me money, plus making me prioritize.

  4. @TheYoungPretender:

    And to circle around to my starting point, the people pooh-poohing space as an elaborate fantasy tend not to have the nicest view of human nature either.

    #NotAllMe [sic]

    I have a very nice view of human nature. I pooh-pooh space as an elaborate fantasy.

  5. Yeah, not liking the look of the Kindle Oasis much.

    My non-touch Kindle 4 had a rough patch last year when I thought I might have to replace it but a factory reset finally sorted it. Though I had to use an obscure method of forcing the reset as even the menu option wouldn’t work.

    As it isn’t backlit I’m still thinking about upgrading at some point but actually like the physical buttons mine has (on both sides and I swap hands a lot) I’ve ended up using the Kindle app on my ipad mini at home more recently as poor winter light and energy saving bulbs make reading a pain. This has been just helped by iOS 9.3 finally introducing an automatic screen warming function called Night Shift.

    Has anyone tried the Kindle Voyage?


    One of my favorite authors, so this is subject to my idiosyncracies. You should read, more or less in order…

    Nova – Most polished of the 60s novels.
    Trouble on Triton – Very accessible. Full of good humor, science and feminism.
    Driftglass – Or another collection of his shorter work that includes these stories.
    The Einstein Intersection – Wildest of the 60s novels.
    The Motion of Light in Water – An amazing memoir (nonfiction) of growing up smart, black and gay in post-war New York.
    The Jewel-Hinged Jaw – A collection of essays and criticism including the indispensable classic, “About 5,750 Words,” which functions as Delany’s ars poetica.
    Dhalgren – At last you are ready! Motion grounds you in the referent and Jewel-Hinged Jaw prepares you for the style. I freely admit that while I consider this a Great Work (not just a great SF work), it’s not for everybody, which is why I have it way down here.
    Whatever else takes your fancy (not an actual work) – By now you’re either determined to read everything (that’s not too squicky at least) or else you bailed.

    Equinox – Doesn’t get the pub Hogg does, but what I read of it was super-gross.
    Hogg – Full disclosure: I haven’t read this. Based on the precis I plan not to.
    The Shetterly Interview About That Issue – Delany is just heartbreakingly wrong in terrible ways. Reading the actual demonstration of this is neither pleasant nor productive unless you are a Delany obsessive with a strong stomach.

  7. @Jim Henley, thanks for the Delaney recommendations. I started reading Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand a couple weeks ago, got about a hundred pages in before I left it aside for work reasons and haven’t gone back to it yet. Maybe I’d be better off starting where you suggest.

  8. @Jack Lint
    If your snark about righthandsplaining was aimed at me, it may be relevant to mention that I am left handed. And I still don’t understand complaints about handedness of ereaders.

    I hold the book in my right hand and turn the pages with my left.
    I hold the tablet in my right hand and swipe to turn the pages with my left.

  9. @Jim Henley
    Thanks! I’ll definitely check out Nova and Trouble on Triton based on your list. I see Dhalgren show up on all sorts of lists and recommendations, but, honestly, don’t know much of anything else. I’ll hold off until I check out some of this other work.

  10. @Jim Henley

    My apologies, I’ll clarify. I’d meant that there is a strong subset of what you could call “Stross-ian” types: their dismissal is a sign of their worth.

  11. That is what I deserve for not waiting until all three books are out before reading. Let’s hope I’ll be alive still.

  12. Something my old dead Sony ereader did that my Kobo doesn’t, is allow you to tell it which direction to swipe to turn pages. I actually had mine set “backwards” because it was an easier motion for me (don’t know why). I’ve gotten used to the Kobo, but there was a lot of backwards-page-turning for a long time.

    (I also miss the physical turn-the-page buttons. Sometimes a swipe highlights something or brings up a menu instead of turning the page…)

    I like my Kobo, mind you, but in an idea world it would have the Sony buttons, too.

  13. I just finished Seanan McGuire’s ‘Every Heart a Doorway’. I can’t recommend it enough for really interesting characterizations. Also, the prose is fantastic.

    Anyone know where I can find out the word count? I’m curious if it qualifies as a novel or novella. Either way, anyone looking to get a jump on likely nominees for 2016 should get it in their TBR pile now. If it isn’t a contender this year, then we will have had a very exceptional year indeed.

  14. @Soon Lee

    I’ve read Stross on generation ships, and again, I think it’s curious that we’ve all decided that generation ships are the One True Way, as well as the idea that we’ll of course never use any of these new technologies we discover to engineer humans to be more adapted to various environments. As well as the simple amusement that even in Aurora, hibernation is easy enough that a group of island regressives can whip it together from scratch.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for the flaws of the Generation Ship as concept, but I’m again not sold on the idea that our current technology, especially our current understanding of biology, is set in stone, granite and immobile, and thus leaving our only option to give up and go surfing. I think the economic benefits of the asteroids alone will spur a good deal of development, and a less quietistic view of extinction risk will always provide a certain spur. As far as the asteroids go, there’s a lot go good reasons why mineral extraction outside of the biosphere is far preferable to doing so within it. A long list, which is only more worth considering if we don’t want to risk this biosphere.

  15. @IanP

    I have a Kindle Voyage. I had the kindle keyboard (is that what you are calling a Kindle 4?) for years, but I have just about completely switched over.

    The Voyage is noticeably smaller, though the screen is the same size. This means it fits more easily in pockets and purses. The covers for it are very cheap, compared to Kindle Keyboard covers. (I have a cover for my Kindle Keyboard that has a little slide-out light that I used all the time for reading in the dark and that was always on the bed to light my way to the bathroom if I needed that. I love that cover, but it is a little bulky and it does make the KK weigh a little more, so there’s that.)

    One of the ways the Voyage got smaller was losing the physical keyboard; it has a touchscreen keyboard like an iPad. The touchscreen works pretty well; it isn’t the unresponsive PITN that older touch screens were, but the disadvantages of not being able to feel which letter you are pressing or whether you have actually succeeded in pressing it are all there. So far I haven’t used the keyboard enough to make that a big disadvantage.

    I like the backlit screen, but I don’t use the auto brightness feature because it was too bright to suit me when I switched it on. I like to read in bed and I gradually turn the brightness down and down as my eyes adjust to the darkness. I end up reading on setting 3 or 4. The light is cool rather than warm–I’d actually like it if they made the light yellower on the low settings, for exactly the same reason I like Night Shift and am disappointed that my particular iPad is too old for Night Shift to work on it. However on the really low settings the cool light doesn’t seem to keep me awake; YMMV.

    If I wake up in the middle of the night 3 or 4 is enough to let me use the controls to set it to 10 or so to light my way to the bathroom. 🙂

    I dislike the home screen, which they have cleverly set to only display my books in one corner so they can use the rest of it to pressure me to buy more stuff. Fortunately the page turn patches on the sides quickly get me back to displaying my library.

    There are page turn patches on both sides, a bigger page-forward one below and a smaller page-backward one above. They aren’t buttons and don’t have the same feel, but the Voyage can be set to vibrate a little in your hand when you press them to give something of the same effect. I use them about half the time and swipe or tap to turn about half the time.

    I really liked the text-to-speech function that the Kindle Keyboard had; I didn’t use it often, but when I spent a month so sick I couldn’t focus my eyes on the page my Kindle read a lot of books to me. The reading robot is gone from the Voyage, to my sorrow.

    The screen is slightly better, but I never found the KK screen a bother so this wasn’t a big deal for me.

    I am happy with the Voyage, but a lot of that is the smaller form factor and the ability to vary the screen lighting. If that is not a consideration for you, or if physical buttons that you can feel click / text-to-speech / physical keyboard are important to you, you might want to get another Kindle Keyboard.

  16. The lead characters in Charlies’ books are reasonably diverse – he does have women as lead characters in the Merchant Prince series (not my cup of tea, YMMV) and in Rule 34. Plus a sex-bot in another series. I can see the anarcho-tech from the Accelerando days though.

    There are those on the blog who are upload fanatics – personally, I think that’s about as likely as FTL travel.

    Big big problem with asteroid mining is how you get the raw materials back down to Earth – a multi-tonne steerable chunk of anything capable of mostly surviving renetry (copper, iron, titanium, platinum, etc) is indistinguishable from a weapon of mass destruction and so everyone would be super-jumpy about it. I can see “you can mine stuff but only bring it back to lunar orbit” but even that is problematic.

  17. @TheYoungPretender:

    My apologies, I’ll clarify. I’d meant that there is a strong subset of what you could call “Stross-ian” types: their dismissal is a sign of their worth.

    Thanks for the clarification. I see that more from the hardcore Singularitarians in his comments, but I may have overlooked it from non-Singularity pooh-poohers.

  18. @Ryan H

    I have Every Heart A Doorway as a novella at approx 38,000 words based on a rough and ready approach of getting the text out via Calibre and using the word count from LibreOffice. There’s definitely a margin for error in there though.
    I’ve put it in the new Hugo recs wiki as a novella, because I agree that its a great story.


    Haven’t used the Voyage, but last year’s Paperwhite has the same screen as last year’s Voyage and I like mine very much. If the Oasis results in Paperwhites dropping in price I’d recommend them without hesitation (hell, I’d recommend them at full price).

  19. @TheYoungPretender:

    I often find Stross’ writing quite pleasant, even if I think he’s Peter Hamilton for white boys with vague tech-anarchist leanings.

    I’m not quite sure how to parse this, but I guess the important part is that it sounds dismissive?

    ETA: for the grammarians, I would use Stross’s, not Stross’, based on s vs z sound, but I’m not sure that’s an actual rule. Perhaps I’ll look that up later.

  20. @Cat

    Thanks for that, sounds like the Voyage might be a good choice for me.

    The one I have has neither a touch screen or keyboard. To search for things you have to use the four way controller to move around a virtual keyboard. Tedious at best, unsurprisingly I tend to shop for books on the website. On the other hand it was cheap and has the physical forward and back buttons on each side. I carry it in a slip case, which although not waterproof is probably good enough protection from Scotland’s weather when in my pack. Taking it out to read means I can juggle hands as I like and use the thumb of the holding hand to change page.

    I got Dad a Paperwhite last Christmas, he loves it as he can now read in bed without disturbing mum without a head torch… I actually found it a bit bulky once it was in its cover compared with mine. My hands aren’t all that big for a guy though, take a medium glove.

  21. I’ll second the endorsements of NOVA as the most accessible Delany book. I’ve enjoyed a number of Delany’s other SF/Fantasy books and stories, with varying definitions of “enjoyed”. Like Gene Wolfe, sometimes (often) you feel like you’re only reading the top-level story, and missing the understory (sometimes multiple understories) hidden in the text.

    Jim Henley, I have read HOGG. Eww. E-w-w-w-w. E-W-W-W-W-W-W. Ugh. Ugly, icky, abusive, even violent sex (rape) without even an iota of love or affection. (The closest it comes is [okay, I started to describe a scene, but thought better of it].) No boundaries, no limits, no conscience. Sexual release isn’t just the most important thing to the characters, it’s the ONLY thing. I feel like this (and Delany’s similar “erotic” — I feel like I’m abusing that word — fiction) should come with a warning label: DELANY SEX FICTION: DO NOT ENGAGE.

  22. The thing about Delany is that he was helping to invent what has become a very modern style of SF in an era when the pulps still dominated, and he was writing for those pulps. So his early stuff still has a lot of pulpy elements. Which can seem incongruous, since in other ways, his work seems much more modern.

    I love his stuff, but I’m old enough to remember when it really was startlingly new and innovative.

    For my money, the best of early Delany is the novella “Empire Star”. It’s not one of his most famous works, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s funny, but has very powerful undercurrents. And it has one of the best and most innovative uses of Anachronic Order, with multiple, overlapping time-travelers, so there is no “right” order to the story.

    Nova is indeed a pretty good starting place, though.

  23. @TYP I think there’s a lot to be said for the flaws of the Generation Ship as concept, but I’m again not sold on the idea that our current technology, especially our current understanding of biology, is set in stone, granite and immobile, and thus leaving our only option to give up and go surfing.
    This. This so much. I don’t understand why people think we’ve reached the human pinnacle of learning. I think given how accessible science and biology study is becoming – check out all the cool STEM/STEAM kits and even portable DNA labs being created combined with increasing OPEN initiatives combined with computing changes and I think in 20-30 years we are going to continue seeing growth and finding out we are wrong about what we know. The cycle we’ve had for thousands of years is going to continue possibly at faster rates for as long as humanity lets it.

  24. @Jim Henley
    By your reading suggestions I’ve gone about Delany all wrong. Started with Dhalgren and miscellaneous articles on the internet including that difficult one with Shetterly who was the wrong person IMHO to be interviewing on a sensitive topic. I have a bunch of other fiction and nonfiction lined up. I can’t decide if I’d be better reading Delany’s thoughts on topics before dipping further into his fiction or not.

  25. My 2 Delany cents — a brilliant stylist and concept-maker, but only once did he get hold of a compelling story to tell : NOVA.

    That said, his short stories are worth your time, and I have a fondness for Babel-17 and the Einstein Intersection — hastily written novels that show the haste, yet have their moments. His later novels become too thesis-driven for my taste.

  26. Chris S on April 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm said:

    … Big big problem with asteroid mining is how you get the raw materials back down to Earth – a multi-tonne steerable chunk of anything capable of mostly surviving renetry (copper, iron, titanium, platinum, etc) is indistinguishable from a weapon of mass destruction and so everyone would be super-jumpy about it. I can see “you can mine stuff but only bring it back to lunar orbit” but even that is problematic.

    I’d assume asteroid mining would pre-suppose moon bases, with heavy industry set up there, and so no need to be trying to ease large loads into the earth’s atmosphere.
    Then using asteroid mining to supply said moon development and further solar system exploration, with a sideline of high-value/low weight finished items making it down to the planet.

  27. alexvdl: So the Kindle Oasis dropped and I am… underwhelmed. The WiFi with Special Offers version is 290 dollars, which is ridiculous. Which means the 3G one without Special Offers is going to be absurdly ridiculous. It looks great, but I’m going to hold onto my money until they do something I want like waterproofing.

    I’m still using a Kindle DX with International 3G. I love the larger screen; I prefer a larger font, and I read very quickly, so on the small screen Kindles I’d be paging every few seconds, which is just annoying.

    The usability is not the best in some areas; the keyboard is a pain, and it won’t read .docs or .epubs. But it’s got text-to-speech functionality (even though I rarely use that), speakers and a headphone jack, and will play mp3s (though I rarely do that, either), and a basic web browser (which has come in quite handy on numerous occasions).

    I usually convert any non-mobi files I want to read to pdfs in a defined formatting which is the perfect font size for me, with microscopic borders, and I don’t mind the little bit of extra effort that requires. I’ve got a nice little Belkin clip-on light for reading when the surroundings are not well-lit.

    And there are no ads — even when I choose to go to the Kindle store, all I get is recommended books, with which I have no problem.

    Until they produce a Kindle which has enough “pro”s to make the smaller screen worthwhile, I’ll just keep using my DX. I have my Surface Pro, if there’s a pressing need to read an epub or a doc and I don’t have time to convert the file — but as I spend all day at work on backlit computer monitors, I find the e-ink a much-desired respite when reading in the evening or weekend.

  28. @Tasha – I’d argue that the US has already passed peak learning (education), especially in the southern states, and is on a rapid downslope.

    As you’re in another country, YMMV.

  29. Re: Generation ships
    I think it’s an aspect of what you are extrapolating and how much you are willing to hand-wave.
    Generation ships have a aspect of “this could be done with what we already know if it was just a bit better”. There’s no radical leaps of technology inherent in the idea, just a refinement and march of what we can already do. Really realistic or not, it has a whiff of believability about it.

    Where as even hybernation requires a huge leap in our fundamental understanding and abilities.

  30. @Mark

    I have Every Heart A Doorway as a novella at approx 38,000 words based on a rough and ready approach of getting the text out via Calibre and using the word count from LibreOffice. There’s definitely a margin for error in there though.

    Where does the error come in? That seems a very precise method to me. Are you skeptical of LibreOffice’s word-count function, or does Calibre do something funny when you extract the text?

    What I do for Tor.com novellas where I can’t extract the whole text into Calibre is to use the excerpt that Tor provides to compute the rate of words/kindle-locations and then multiply by the number of locations in the whole story. So I start by pasting the except into MS Word, trimming off the non-story stuff, and using Word’s word-count feature. Call this W, the number of words in the excerpt. Then I get the Kindle-location where the excerpt starts and subtract it from the one where it ends. Call this E, the number of locations the excerpt comprises. Finally I compute L, the total number of locations in the whole story. W/E x L is my estimate for the total number of words in the story.

    It’s a pity you can’t just multiply L by some constant, but W/E is discouragingly variable from one work to another. I’ve seen as high as 25.5 (Binti) and as low at 19.4 (Patchwerk).

  31. My first Delany was “Empire Star”, and I still think that’s a good one. Of the earlier stuff, Nova is possibly the best, but my personal favourite is Babel-17 – it sort of clicked with my early interest in languages.

    Generation ships – was recently re-reading Brian Stableford’s Dark Ararat, which features a generation ship also carrying passengers in suspended animation – with considerable tension at the end of the voyage, when the protagonist is woken from suspension by the current crew, who are not madly happy about doing jobs their ancestors signed them up for seven centuries previously, and have their own ideas about how things are going to be run in future…. There’s a lot more going on in that particular book, all tying back in to the over-arching series (it’s book 5 of 6 in his “Emortality” series). Given the background of the series, the generation ship thing works… about as well as you could hope, really. (Far from perfectly, but not fatally so.)

  32. @bloodstone75

    Not dismissive of him as a writer; I think that he writes very well, and Hamilton is a good prose stylist and engaging world builder. However, for Hamilton’s works, you’ll get a world that will be very comfortable to someone who is a secular white person of enlightened social views but rock solid faith in the capitalist system, and won’t challenge them in anyway.

    I think Stross is the same for white people with libertarian tendencies who posses enough social knowledge to guise that libertarianism as some kind of techno-anrachism. You’ll hear how enlightened you are, and not be challenged at all. That being said, his works are engaging and very funny, and Halting State was second person that didn’t make me want to throw my kindle through a wall.

    I like the writer; the thinker and individual can be a bit off. Always finding something he’s far too smart to right on (any more).

  33. @Tasha

    Exactly. Don’t get me wrong. I expect the future to look utterly alien to people who write clean bright ships with neat square-jawed engineer heroes. We will look very different, I think, to a level where explain how we could have thought skin color meant a damn will be like explaining augers. It will be an altogether wet, biological, and messy kind of future. Vats and molds and fungi.

    I mean think of it. For radiation shielding and acceleration, someone who can breathe water, and float and live in a medium that would help with both of those concerns could be quite promising. Spaceships as giant plants, holding people with brains like ours, but bodies far different.

  34. Jack Lint on April 13, 2016 at 10:59 am said:
    Are we witnessing some righthandsplaining here?

    I doubt there was any sinister intent.

  35. That new Hitler meme video is one of the best I’ve seen. The one woman’s line literally made me do a spit-take.

    Must run errands, more later.

  36. As far as word counts go, it’s my understanding that one reason lawyers have traditionally preferred WordPerfect over Word is that Word’s word-count functionality cannot (or at least could not) be trusted to meet the exacting requirements needed for certain court filings.

    In publishing, it’s even more confusing. See this SFWA article on “What is a Word?

  37. @Tasha Turner:

    By your reading suggestions I’ve gone about Delany all wrong. Started with Dhalgren and miscellaneous articles on the internet including that difficult one with Shetterly who was the wrong person IMHO to be interviewing on a sensitive topic.

    Heh. Well, if you started with Dhalgren and liked it fine, screw my own plan! 🙂

    Me, I think I started Dhalgren twice and gave up, then the third time was the charm. Then when you reread, you discover that what seemed like a kind of rambling impressionistic narrative is really a precisely structured plot with every element placed just so. Also, I took up writing poetry several years after reading Dhalgren, and some of the discussions in the book saved me enormous amounts of time and heartache.

    I’ve seen enough of Wool Sweater’s online behavior to want to steer well clear of interacting with him, but I thought he did an excellent job in that interview. Someone in the Big Thread of Derailment described it as Shetterly trying over and over again to discover that Delany did not mean what it sounded like he was saying only to discover that, yeah, he meant exactly what he was saying.

  38. @Lauowolf:

    I’d assume asteroid mining would pre-suppose moon bases, with heavy industry set up there, and so no need to be trying to ease large loads into the earth’s atmosphere.
    Then using asteroid mining to supply said moon development and further solar system exploration, with a sideline of high-value/low weight finished items making it down to the planet.

    But this is the problem: we do asteroid mining to feed heavy industry on the moon to support lunar and other exploration and colonization. But that’s just saying that the purpose of being in space is being in space. None of it redounds to the benefit of people on Earth. I mean, a sideline of high-value/low-weight finished items which cost a fortune to land without breaking is a pretty paltry benefit for trillions of dollars in real resources (regardless of economic system) spent establishing and maintaining lunar colonies and L5 habitats and so on.

    And the whole “hedge against extinction” thing is very romantic, but it loses its luster in light of:

    * it won’t work until human space habitation is genuinely self-sustaining, which likely requires a minimum of 100 million people off-planet
    * it also won’t work against transplanetary disasters until we get outside the solar system – there’s another 100 million people you need
    * billions of people will still be dead, easily 99% of humanity – proofing the 99% against as many disasters as possible is much more important than hanging a remnant in the dark that may make a go of it without the home team if they’re lucky
    * the known, extrinsic extinction risks are so low-probability there is no hurry whatsoever – technology a thousand years from now, or even a hundred, may make interplanetary or interstellar colonization a breeze; that’s the time to worry about actually doing it.

  39. @lurkertype

    That new Hitler meme video is one of the best I’ve seen. The one woman’s line literally made me do a spit-take

    +1 to that. Perfect.

  40. @chris @lurkertype Which Hitler meme video is this of? (and where?)

  41. I’ve found that many of Delaney’s books start out strong, then veer into vagueness toward the end. Nova is an exception—read it when I was about 20, then reread it a few years ago. It really holds up.

    Dhalgren–well, it’s sort of like Ulysses by James Joyce. Except I actually finished Dhalgren. It took me a few years, but I’ve never gotten more than halfway through Ulysses.

  42. @Henley

    I’m not finding the link right now, sadly, but there’s been some work done on getting processed ores back down without losing 1) half the product, 2) anyone in a wide radius under them.

    I had mentioned it, because in any state with a great deal of mining and a strong enough state government to prevent the mining companies from burying the research, you get a very good look of quite how much crap one must deal with. Waste-water is a key issue because there’s a crap ton of it, and the sheer variety and quantity of poisons in it is quite something, and most critically, the more it’s researched, the more it’s becoming obvious that there may be no good way of preventing it from leaching out into the biosphere. And this is for iron ore, which in terms of quantity of wastes and poisons is a picnic next to the rare earths in every piece of consumer electronics you could name.

    Enough idea of the costs of the status quo, and something innovative seems a lot less expensive. It’s why it can be seen as a moral question – a long term solution solely on this planet might be possible, but for a much, much smaller population. I tend to view proposals that we revert to a lower technological state as primarily a mark of personal virtue.

  43. Stross balked at Deep Space and some readers cried,
    Stross spoke of new markets and the voices died…

    (Meh! For one brief moment thought I could unite the Gen Ships, Delaney, and Stross threads in a single filk taking off from The Ballad of Beta-2. Not what I hoped for but posting it anyways!)

  44. @Stoic Cynic: Nicely done, even in fragment!

    @TheYoungPretender: I believe you on the mining. Practically, though, the early decades-to-centuries of space settlement would require such a massive and massively expensive (in terms of energy) transfer of resources from Earth to space that its not clear when the net savings on pollutants kick in.

    Also, good point on wastewater in refining. So our space-based heavy industries are going to need access to copious water to work, right?

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